At the January 21, 2014 meeting of the Bankhead Liaison Panel in Moulton, AL, Alabama Forest Supervisor Steve Lohr announced that he had just signed an updated consent to lease 80,000 acres in the southern part of the Bankhead National Forest for mineral operations at the request of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). These parcels were nominated by an Expression of Interest (EOI) on file with the BLM since early 2012.
When asked what it would take to withdraw this 80,000 acres from eligibility for mineral leasing, Supervisor Lohr would only say, “extenuating circumstances.” This represents the same position the Forest Service took in 2012 on a proposed Talladega National Forest lease sale, when it stood behind the 2004 Revised Land and Resource Management Plan, which makes available for mineral leasing 543,000 acres of Alabama’s National Forests.
While Supervisor Lohr did mention coalbed methane as the object of the EOI, BLM mineral leases do not specify any particular type of mineral operation, and the leases convey ownership of all subsurface minerals. In addition to the coal seams present in the southern Bankhead, there is also a shale basin that extends into this area, though it is unknown whether it contains extractable petroleum deposits.
BLM’s quarterly lease sales are announced 90 days in advance. We will be closely monitoring the sale notices in 2014, the next one of which is due out March 19 here: http://www.blm.gov/es/st/en/prog/minerals/current_sales_and.html
National Forests in Alabama mineral leases are still on the block!
The Forest Supervisor for National Forests in Alabama let us know in June 2012 that interest had been expressed by someone in the oil and gas industry in purchasing mineral leases in the southern part of the Bankhead National Forest, presumably for coalbed methane exploration and production. This map shows those townships in which parcels have been nominated. The current sale notice for the September 12 BLM Eastern States Office quarterly mineral lease sale does not include any national forest lands. This means that the earliest the Bankhead leases could be offered would be the December sale, tentatively set for the 12th of December. Notice of the December sale should be out by September 12, and it will be posted on this webpage: http://www.blm.gov/es/st/en/prog/minerals/current_sales_and.html
The next meeting of the Bankhead Liaison Panel will be held on Thursday, August 29 at 6:00 PM. Originally, the possible Bankhead mineral leases were to be the focus of the agenda for this meeting. However, the word from Bankhead District Ranger, Elrand Denson, is that the leasing issue has been removed from the agenda, tentatively planning to address the Bankhead leases in a later Liaison Panel meeting. According to Denson, the reason for this decision is that no leases are currently pending, and if Bankhead parcels are included in the December 2013 quarterly sale, the public can refer to the USFS website for information pertinent to how and when to engage the agency in regard to these leases (see below for web page link). As further developments emerge, they will be posted here, and an E-alert will be sent out to our activist list. Make sure you are signed up to receive our emails. Any questions can be directed to our Alabama office at 256-974-6166.
National Forests in Alabama has created an oil and gas leasing web page on their website following the informational open house in Montgomery on April 25. You can view the page here to familiarize yourself with USFS and BLM policies and procedures regarding mineral leasing on our national forests.